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An interesting first paragraph in [url=http://www.reason.com/news/show/118998.html]this article[/url].
New York is about to become the 20th state with a civil commitment program for sex offenders, thereby embracing an increasingly fashionable contradiction: When sex offenders are caught and convicted, the government says they're responsible for their actions, so it locks them up. But after they serve their time, it says they can't control themselves, so it locks them up some more.
I think that captures the dilemma nicely.
Our prison system seriously needs to change. If we think that people can't help themselves, then that doesn't mean they shouldn't be kept away from the general public necessarily. But if that's the route we're going to go, then the prisons themselves need to change drastically, from places of misery, to places of comfort where people can live their lives out without suffering but also without hurting other people.
[ 13 March 2007: Message edited by: Michelle ]
This is the eternal problem of incarceration, isn't it? For those who are not true "lifers" (serving an indefinate sentence) we have to accept that one day, either on parole or after serving their fullsentence, convicted criminals are going to be released back into society. With sex offenders, must they all be sentenced to serve time at the pleasure of Her Majesty? Aside from high profile cases, what is the actual recidivism rate amongst released sex offenders? I don't have that information.